Thursday, December 22, 2011

Normal service to resume some time or other...

Hi. This is the first post I've written here in the month of December. I only wrote one in November. I'd really hoped to do better than that. The end of the year is always a strange time, with various efforts naturally winding down in anticipation of the holiday shut down and the refresh that comes with the new year. My life is certainly no exception. Unfortunately this blog is mostly written by one person (me). Although I've tried to enlist others to help out, this has been rare. I have always found it difficult to start writing pieces that I know are going to turn out to be long. I have often spent several hours composing a blog post that if I'm lucky has been seen by three people. I'm going to keep this up, but I've given up on anything else meaningful in 2011. New Year's Resolution: write more.

There's been no shortage of topics. No, indeed. In fact, that's part of the problem. It's a bit overwhelming to be honest. Where do I begin? I've got so much I want to say about America: NDAA, SOPA, Protect IP, drone attacks and plenty of others. There's lots to say about Britain. We're still seeing misguided prosecutions of speech-related offences wrapping up in court rooms. There has been a particularly disturbing trend in Scotland (which lacks the Serious Crime Act) of charging common law breach of the peace for remarks made online in places such as Facebook. Breach of the peace here is quite galling as it does not require the prosecution to prove intent.

In England and Wales, we have a Crown Prosecution Service that is increasingly zealous in its fight against "offensive" and "menacing" online communications. Nineteen year old Hollie Bentley was fortunately cleared of her charges under the Serious Crime Act for allegedly intentionally encouraging violent disorder in a Facebook event with the title "Wakey Riots" containing the message "Who's up for it? LMFAO". She should never have been prosecuted in the first place, as there was never sufficient evidence of intent. I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to the CPS asking them to explain how this case satisfied the evidential stage of their Full Code Test, but this has been refused. I will request an internal review and let you know how that goes. In February we will hopefully see the end of the Twitter Joke Trial case when its appeal is heard in the High Court (unless this is again postponed). I'm optimistic about this and look forward to a decent case law precedent that will force the CPS to exercise considerably more restraint when considering future prosecutions against people who simply make bad jokes online. Fingers crossed. Merry Christmas and happy new year.

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